Ontario Criminal


Occurrence of two fires in house at same time could not be explained by accident

Accused appealed conviction for arson. Accused’s neighbour saw her leaving her home shortly before he observed smoke coming from house, and on entering house, neighbour discovered contents of pot burning on stove. Fire investigators discovered iron in second floor closet, sitting in middle of pile of burned clothing. Serious quantity of paint had been sprayed throughout main floor of house, on walls, flooring, furniture, and other objects. Accused had financial motive for fire. After her release from custody, accused went to see her landlord and admitted to having started fire. Upon her arrest, accused was advised of her right to counsel, was cautioned, and consulted with counsel. Officer repeatedly told accused that she would be released from custody whether she gave statement or not. After lengthy, videotaped interview, accused admitted that she had started fire, stating that she was depressed and suicidal as result of her family’s financial situation. Accused argued that trial judge misapprehended evidence by reasoning that her statement was likely to be true because she provided accurate details, by finding that landlord’s evidence about her apology was reliable, as landlord had suffered other losses not compensated by insurance, and by finding that fires were started in two locations in the second floor bedroom, and reasoning that therefore fires were intentionally set. Appeal dismissed. Having found that accused’s confession was voluntary, trial judge was entitled to consider whether it was reliable and consistent with objective evidence and opinion of fire investigator. It was never suggested to landlord in cross-examination that she had motive to lie because she had not been paid by insurance company or fully compensated for damage. Trial judge referred to fact that two separate fires were started in house, one upstairs in bedroom closet and other downstairs in kitchen, which was alone sufficient to support conclusion that occurrence of two fires in house at same time could not have been explained by accident. If there was misapprehension of evidence, alleged error did not play essential part in reasoning process. Fact of two fires on two separate floors was sufficient to rule out accident.

R. v. Sousa (Jul. 21, 2014, Ont. C.A., G.R. Strathy C.J.O., K. Feldman J.A., and David Watt J.A., File No. CA C56227) 116 W.C.B. (2d) 162.

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